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4-H remains stable in county

Lincolnville club rebounds from brink

Staff writer

At a time when 4-H membership has been declining elsewhere in the state, the organization in Marion County has been stable. The four H’s are “head, heart, hands, and health.”

Countywide membership this year is 202, said Nancy Pihl, Kansas State University Research and Extension agent and 4-H co-coordinator. That has been steady over the past decade.

“Cattle and cooking” is the main public perception of 4-H, but it encompasses a lot of other skills, she said. The popularity of various projects varies from year to year with members’ interest and who is available to lead.

Livestock and foods programs are popular with the clubs in Marion County, but so are other projects. Currently popular projects include woodworking and photography, Pihl said.

The Lincolnville Wide Awake club has had a particular resurgence this year, Pihl said. The club had only four members in 2010, before rebounding to more than 10 in 2011.

Club co-leader Janet Matz said leaders were worried about the viability of a club with only four members going forward. It was difficult to have meetings with so few members.

Leaders soon realized there were several families in Lincolnville that might be interested in 4-H but hadn’t been approached before.

“We have a very young club,” Matz said. “Most of them are in grade school.”

That is a good sign, because it means membership should be stable for the next few years.

Photography, goats, poultry, foods, and dogs are popular among the new members, she said.

The Happy Hustlers club meets in Marion, although members are drawn from a wide area, co-leader Angie Stika said. The club has 34 total members this year, with about 15 active with projects. Livestock, food, and textiles are the most popular projects with members, she said.

The club is buoyed by a few especially active families, Stika said. That is a contrast to when she was involved in 4-H growing up.

“We had lots of members and lots of activities,” she said.

The Peabody Achievers club has about 20 members, and activity has increased in the past two years, co-leader Jennifer Gaines said. There are families involved where the parents have taken an active role with activities, she said.

The popularity of different projects depends on whether a member lives in town or in the country, she said. Livestock remains the most popular project overall, especially among rural members. Cooking and photography are favorites among members in town.

Club members are involved in several community service projects each year. Past projects have included planting flowers in downtown Peabody, painting parking lines, having drives for school supplies and mittens, and sending care packages to local soldiers serving overseas, Gaines said.

The Tampa Triple T’s club has a lot of activity, which co-leader Kim Oborny credited to the involvement of the community.

The club has about 40 members. Livestock, foods, photography, and textiles are among the most popular projects in the club, Oborny said.

In addition to sponsored projects, the club is involved in community service. Every Christmas, club members deliver goodie baskets to shut-ins in the community, she said.

Oborny wasn’t in 4-H when she was young, so helping lead a club has been a new experience for her.

“I think it’s an excellent program,” Oborny said. “It teaches responsibility and hard work.”

It helps members make friends and helps shy children open up, as it has one of her children.

That is a common benefit of 4-H membership, Pihl said.

“One thing 4-H is really good at is public speaking,” Pihl said.

She has been told by school teachers that they can tell which students are in 4-H, because they’re the most ready to speak in class.

4-H projects also teach long-term responsibility, Gaines said. A project is a yearlong endeavor, which members have to maintain and improve.

“Truly, it’s preparing them for life in the work force,” she said.

Leaders of the Goessel Goal Getters and South Cottonwood clubs could not be reached before the newspaper deadline.

Last modified July 21, 2011

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